By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
Royal E. (Gene) Brown believes in commitment. Although he is a vice president of treasury services for Independence Blue Cross, where he has been employed for 34 years, and could live anywhere he wants, he’s still committed to his South Philadelphia neighborhood of birth and St. Charles Borromeo Parish. He was baptized there in 1955 at age 2 and attended the parish elementary school.
“I’m committed to my community and, from a parish perspective, to St. Charles,” said Brown, who is a lector and member of the parish finance council, and has served on various other committees over the years.
After St. Charles School, he went on to what was then Bishop Neumann High School and Lehigh University. He played basketball both in high school and college and continued to enjoy the game both as a referee and player until Father Time caught up with him in recent years.
Along the way, he also received a sound education, which he expanded upon through a master’s of business administration degree from Drexel University. At Lehigh he received more than an education; that’s where he met his wife, Karen. She was a Lutheran at the time, but after their 1977 marriage she became a Catholic, and together they raised four daughters, Ineeta, Jessica, Gena and Loren, now ranging in age from 31 to 20.
On the community level he’s board chairman of Greater Philadelphia Health Action, a provider of health services to people of modest income; vice chairman of Citizens Acting Together Can Help, a mental health provider; a member of the Philadelphia Gas Commission; and a board member of the Christian Street YMCA.
Among his Catholic connections are membership in the Knights of Peter Claver, Council 346, and for the past four years, the Serra Club of Philadelphia, which has a primary mission of promoting religious vocations.
He became a member at the urging of Dawn Chism, another member who, along with Brown, is a board member of the Martin de Porres Foundation, which supports the faith in the African- American community.
To tell the truth, Brown had never thought too deeply about the need for vocations. He always considered himself an average Catholic, faithful to attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days certainly, and serving his parish as requested. Two things combined to change his outlook.
Last year, Karen, his beloved wife of 34 years, died, and that made him more introspective on matters of faith.
“I pray more since that happened,” he said.
Also, service on a cluster committee for school consolidations made him more aware of the needs of the Church, and the impact clergy shortage will have as parish consolidations come under consideration.
Although this is only his fourth year as a member of Serra, he was recently appointed president of the local club. “I’ve met a lot of good people through the club, and have enjoyed it,” he said.
As president, he has his work cut out for him. Philadelphia, along with most of America, has an aging clergy. Nowhere is the need for vocations more obvious than in the Hispanic and African-American communities.
As president of the Serra Club of Philadelphia, Brown has set for himself two goals.
“I want to increase our membership in inner city parishes,” he said, “and I want to develop programs to encourage vocations among inner city populations.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.